"It’s a much deeper record than the first one, if you asked me what the first album was about, we couldn’t tell you..." The Amazons talk new album Future Dust
Reading firebrands The Amazons made quite the impression when they arrived in 2017 with their raucous and knuckletight brand of indie rock. Their self-titled album went Top 10 and they ended its touring cycle on the cusp of headlining arenas.
Now, they follow it up with a new LP that heralds some big changes for the band. Out go a lot of the indie influences that made the first album and in comes classic rock and blues in a big way. Named Future Dust, it’s a swaggering, lean and powerful new record full of short, sharp bursts of rock and roll.
As the album arrives in stores, we spoke to the band’s singer Matt Thomson and drummer Joe Emmett about how they put it together...
In theory, you have your whole life to write your first album and then a few weeks to write a follow-up, how did you find that process?
Matt (Thomson, vocals/guitars): “There are pros and cons to that. The big positives are you’re writing cohesively, you could see a direction and there was a place where we were going. This album is much stronger lyrically, it’s got a theme and a cohesion. It challenges you though. You want to improve. You want to make an album that’s better and punchier and more profound and you have less time to do that.”
Joe (Emmett, drummer): “It sets us in good stead for album three, four and five. You need to learn how to work quickly and how to get things done. Unless you’re going to take huge breaks you’re always going to be writing under pressure. I don’t think bands can afford to take breaks like that these days.”
Matt: “We learned a lot more from this. Much more than the debut. The debut never felt difficult. Mostly because we didn’t know any different. There were definitely moments on this record that were a challenge. It was hard to get over the line. But challenges make you a better band.”
Did you come back with anything from touring?
Matt: “We had a few bits and bobs. Some of them were from the first album, little jams. But nothing was written already.”
Joe: “When you’re touring your debut album, you really want to immerse yourself in everything, you want to go to everywhere, see everything. Working in isolation isn’t where our songs come to life, you need four of us in a room, focused and working. We wanted to enjoy touring and we did, too much probably. We tried to come back and write and realised we were all spent.”
How did you fix that?
Matt: “We decided to go away. We broke our home routine. We went to this place called Three Cliffs Bay in Wales. There was no phone signal, so we got to spend time together, we listened to music, drank whiskey, played poker and we learned how to be a band that writes songs together, not just one that tours. I didn’t want to write the album the same way as the first, it couldn’t just be bits and bots and collecting songs. We had to break that routine.”
But you have stuck with the same producer, you’re back with Catherine Marks…
Matt: “We felt like there was unfinished business with Catherine. We did the album in April 2016 and she’s gone on to do so much and forged her own identity. We’ve gone on and got much better, we both wanted to see where that progression would go.”
Joe: “She made it clear that she wanted another crack at it too. We’d stayed in touch with her and we’ve talked a lot about what we’d do together.”
Blues and classic rock is a much bigger influence this time, were you never tempted to get someone who is steeped in that sound?
Matt: “We needed somebody we trusted and when we talked about the way the songs were going, she was excited to get her hands on them. That was massive for us.”
Did you go into the studio with lots of songs and slim it down? Or did you focus on a select bunch?
Joe: “We didn’t have time to collect songs. It’s also just not how we write. We’re never going to go into a studio with 40 songs. We hone things in our rehearsal rooms. If we like playing it and it excites us, it makes the cut. There’s no point in wasting your time trying to come up with that many songs, you can’t be equally invested in 40 songs.”
Matt: “We like streamlined albums. We’ll never make a double album. Most of my favourite albums are eight or nine tracks long. If you take out the ‘Reprise’ and the instrumental on our album, then it is a nine-track album. An album needs to have the fat trimmed to the bone.”
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme to it?
Matt: “There are a couple of themes. I wanted this record to be honest. That’s what rock and roll is. Honest expression. Release. The lyrics are quite reflective of my 2018 and the sound is the release. There’s confusion. Who to trust, who to listen to, how it is to be in your early 20’s and having nowhere to look for answers."
"We’ve never wanted to be a political band, but these do feel like turbulent times and you have to reflect the times you’re living in. It’s a much deeper record than the first, if you asked me what the first album was about, I couldn’t tell you. It’s just two years worth of songs.”
When did you settle on the title?
Matt: “The album was done, it was hard to get to and it took a lot of coming back to. But it was a phrase that I kept coming back to as I looked through the lyrics. I wanted there to be space for conversation and discussion with the title. It pays to be a bit obscure. You look at Zeppelin titles like Houses Of The Holy and Physical Graffiti. No idea what they mean. But I’m interested.”
What does the title mean to you?
Matt: “That we’re in a time with a lot of absolutes and not much perspective. We’re in a time of chaos. We’re all going to be Future Dust.”
Joe: “I like the lack of a definitive meaning, it gives the album intrigue and it hooks you in.”
Finally, how’s your live set coming together? You got a busy summer ahead…
Matt: “We’ve got a few festivals, both over here and in Europe.”
Joe: “We’ve got our biggest European tour and lots of plans for the UK later this year.”
Matt: “We’ll be cutting a couple of album tracks from the first record, but not a lot.”
Joe: “It’s like our own NFL draft season. Only the strong survive. Especially for festivals, you’ve got to hit people hard and quickly. For our own shows, there’s more scope for variety and to really show people what this record is about.”
The Amazons’ new album Future Dust is out now in hmv stores.